Monday, November 29, 2010

Parshat Miketz
27 Kislev 5771 / November 27, 2010
41:1 – 44:17

Should we open our mind to the World around us or continue living in the Ghetto?
by Taras (Easy) Prokopenko, Moishe House Gomel, Belarus

Parshat Miketz tells us about the dramatic episode of Josef’s meeting with his brothers. The young man, who was sold into slavery, has reached prosperity and moreover - became the governor of Egypt. When his brothers went down to Egypt for food during the famine, they did not recognize the Governor of Egypt as their lost brother Josef.

On one hand, 22 years passed since their last meeting, and this 17-year-old boy turned into a gentle respectable man with a big beard. Therefore, it was easier for Josef to recognize them.

On the other hand, giving a deeper interpretation, the brothers haven't recognized Josef, not so much by sight, but at spiritual level. The brothers were shepherds. It suited their spiritual lifestyle to be alone in the meadows, surrounded by nature and unchallenged by a society that might be hostile to their beliefs. Sheep whom they grazed, didn't deliver them troubles on religious questions. And it was out of their understanding that Josef could remain a devoted son of Yakov, faithful to his father’s way of life while living in the hub of Egypt, the mightiest superpower on earth! They couldn't even imagine that such a thing could happen! Later we will read that Yakov has been strongly pleased and shaken by news that his ostensibly dead son was not only alive, but also remained his son, i.e. remained faithful to Yakov’s traditions.

It is obviously easier to be a Jew amongst Jewish surrounding. Undoubtedly, it is much more difficult to practice the faith, being in minority. Nobody likes to be isolated, as an abscess on a finger. Therefore the desire to be isolated in the small cozy zone of comfort is very much reasonable. Unless, of course, you believe that you have a responsibility to the world around you. When you believe that G-d expects nothing less from you than to change the world, simply treading water is not enough. Then you have no option but to go out and take on the world, engage it and make it a more G-dly place.

All of Yakov’s sons were righteous people, and Josef was the greatest. Because it is one thing to be righteous in the fields and woods, and absolutely another to be righteous among people. Especially among such morally corrupted, as ancient Egyptians were.

The governor of Egypt of that time had the same status as today's U.S. president, or at least a member of the Senate. Imagine that the person holding so high a post is a Jew believing and observing a Torah. He successfully carries out the governmental duties, occupies a prestigious position, and at the same time leads life of a devout Jew. It seems impossible, but Josef has managed to achieve it. And in the same spirit he has brought up his sons, Efraim and Menashe.

Therefore Josef is an important example to emulate for our generation. The majority of us are strongly integrated into a society. We mix in different circles. We live in a society without walls, even wireless society. Would we be able to keep Jewish culture despite the challenges that are thrust upon us directly by a wide open society? This is a question which Josef answers: it isn't simple, but it is possible.

Therefore, be we heads of corporations or high-ranking diplomats, let the governor of Egypt, Josef a Jew, Yacov’s beloved son, inspires us as an example!

Shavua tov, best wishes from Belarus!


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